Bobby came over the following day to inform me that those who wrote the day before us had seen their results. That meant that our results would be published the next day. I was filled with both anticipation and trepidation. What if I flunked it? I had already gotten a JAMB score that was below expectations, what if this one turned out to be the same thing?
The weeks after I saw my JAMB results had been terrible for me. My friends and teachers couldn’t believe that the golden boy of St. Charles, the best in his set had gotten a lowly score of 205. I was down, I knew what I’d written, so what could have happened? Things got worse when I saw that the results of others had been better—way better—than mine. The big question I asked myself was: what if I was an empty vessel making a loud noise?
Bobby also filled me in on how he returned the previous day. After he had relieved himself, he had luckily found a bus that brought him back. I still taunted him a little about it before he finally left.
The next day, I couldn’t eat as worry ate at me. My mom had asked Chidimma to check the results and report back to her and I was waiting for it like a suspect waiting for the jury’s verdict. I’d never repeated any exam. Would I start now?
By 5pm, Chidimma called mom.
“What did you say he got?”
She was told.
“Is that good or bad?”
Chidimma spoke for twenty seconds.
“Okay then. We will wait for the list then.”
Then they spent an extra agonizing five minutes discussing about things I deemed irrelevant. When my mom finally ended the call, her first words to me were, “Praise God, Somtoo.”
“What did she say I got?” I asked frantically.
“Seventy-six.” I did the quick calculation. Seventy-six times four would be three hundred and four, plus two hundred and five, divided by two. That should be around… two hundred and fifty something… Not bad, but… Pharmacy required at least two hundred and seventy. I’d failed. I knew it.
Surprisingly, my mom was dancing. I stared at her with misty eyes. She didn’t know about the calculation I just did. If she knew that I would have to write another JAMB, she would have been different. I didn’t need know how different, but different nonetheless. She came to me, enveloped me in one of those her warm hugs that made me feel invincible, and hailed me, “Prof! Prof! Congrats!” She then gave me a high five. How do I tell her?
Luckily, I’d finished secondary school by then, so I didn’t have to face my friends again. I just stayed at home, reading countless novels and bemoaning my fate.
Silently I started making plans on how to rewrite JAMB, with the idea that I would go for another school, probably University of Calabar. I don’t know why Calabar came to my mind, but the idea stuck.
Few weeks later, the first admission list came out. It was Chibuike that told me about it. He had seen the news on Nairaland. I hurriedly went to check my name, but I saw the dreaded message ‘ADMISSION IN PROGRESS’. That was it for me. When my parents came back, I informed them of my decision to take JAMB again. My mother told me to wait; that a reliable source had told her that Unizik would have a second list. I scoffed at that, but since they were the people that would give me the money, I decided to wait.
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop right? What of an impatient one? I waited for an additional two weeks for the so-called second list, but it wasn’t forthcoming. My friends who had gotten admitted in the first list had already started school and were telling me about the tediousness of lectures. If—and the it was a big ‘IF’—the second list eventually came out, how would I catch up with them? I really saw it as a lost cause, and told mg dad that I really wanted to register for JAMB again so as to start preparing early. They were disappointed—I could see it in their eyes—but they never voiced it. That hurt more, I think.
Two days later, Dad left for work, while promising to register another JAMB for me. In the afternoon, he called me to ask about the course and school I wanted. When I told him University of Calabar, he grunted and told me that he would put Unizik again.
“How will you cope in Calabar? Who do you know there?” Those had been his questions, which I had no answers for.
He then called me again and said that we’d forgotten about the fact that the registration required my fingerprints. I asked him if I could come go where he was, but he said that he had somewhere he had to rush to, that we would register the next day.
I would never forget the date of that day—Tuesday, 16th December, 2014. That night, I saw in the news that Unizik second list was out. I reluctantly checked for my name, and got the news—I was admitted to study Applied Biochemistry, my second course of choice.
I looked at my mother, she smiled, she could have said, “I told you.” But what she did say was, “Nnaa, congratulations.”
When I slept that night, I saw myself in the university, attending lectures.